Southern Africa: Shots

We recently got our shots for southern Africa. Below is a list of the vaccinations you’ll likely need if heading in that direction.

Countries Covered

Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Vaccinations Needed

Hep A: Liver disease most easily transferable as it is done so through food and drink. You need a primary dose and then a booster shot and you’ll be good for life. ($65, then $45 for booster. Also available as Twinrix with Hep B, $75 x 3 doses, or Vivaxim with Typhoid, $115).

Hep B: Liver disease transferable through blood or saliva. Seems unlikely but this could mean if someone spits in your eye, or you have a cut and someone’s spit or blood touches you, etc. If you went to school in Canada, you should be covered for Hep B. Otherwise, you’ll be required to get it. ($40 x 3 doses. Also available as Twinrix with Hep A, $75).

Measles/Mumps/Rubella: You need a live vaccine that you would’ve likely gotten as a child; however, as they are good for only 10 years, it might be time for a booster shot. If yours has expired, you’ll be required to get it. ($40).

Typhoid: Fever after ingesting food contaminated with human feces. Sounds gross, but in the developing countries that still use this as fertilizer, totally possible.  The shot will have you vaccinated for two years. ($45, or $55, see below).

Advice: Get this in your non-dominant arm, because it will be sore.

Also: There are a series of four pills you can take that are only slightly more expensive and will protect you for five years. I’m not a fan of pills myself, but if I hadn’t misunderstood the duration difference, I would’ve probably spared myself the pain and just got the pills.

Tetanus/Diptheria/Polio: A trifecta of infectious diseases. I didn’t need the Dip/Polio this time as I got that for my SEA trip, but I did need it for the Tetanus shot. One of the more painful ones. ($15).

Yellow Fever: Acute viral disease causing pain and fever. This is not required anywhere in southern Africa, but many countries require proof of vaccination in case you are coming from a country at risk. Not worth risking having to get this shot on the spot. ($130).

Rabies: No one survives rabies, so you need to get to the hospital immediately if you think you’ve been scratched, bitten, licked, etc., by an animal with rabies. That said, at three required doses within a 21 day span, and $180 a pop, it’s not a very popular vaccine. It is recommended if you’ll be somewhere far away from the nearest clinic or hospital; however, the vaccine will only buy you time, not immunity. You still need to get to the hospital within 24 hours where you’ll get two post-exposure shots. If you don’t have the vaccine, you’ll get four shots (two pre- and the two post-exposure ones). We did not get this. ($180 x 3 doses).

Malaria: From what I’ve heard, you don’t want to get malaria. Lots of options for prevention though, some expensive, some less so. I’ve gotten a pack of pills for $10 in Chiang Mai, Thailand and was fine (I did check for the ingredients), but some might not want to risk that. Pills can be done on schedule so as to coincide with times when you are in at-risk locations; however, as our trip is not set to specific locations or dates, attempting such a schedule would be nearly impossible. We went with Mefloquine, which is taken orally once a week (so less ingestion), and we’ll start it when we leave South Africa.

Note: Known to give you crazy dreams.

Also: Read the instructions, and unless otherwise noted, eat something beforehand! I’ve gotten extremely nauseous a few times before I noticed the pattern.

Dukoral: A vaccine, not a disease. Not really noted anywhere, but recommended to us for Ecoli and Cholera, the most common of the traveler problems: food poisoning from contaminated food and water causing diarrhea, vomiting, etc. A pack of two drinks, taken one week apart, two weeks prior to the trip. Covers Ecoli for 3 months and Cholera for 2 years. ($85).

*IMPORTANT: We had an assessment done by a healthcare professional to determine which shots we actually needed, which were required and which were optional. Please consult a professional before deciding which vaccines to get – there were many that we would’ve missed if it had been up to us!

Traveling Africa: Backpack, Motorbike or 4WD?

One of the logistics issues Charlie and I have come across in planning our Africa adventure is: how do we get around? We know we want to travel independent – no multi-country group tours for us – but how that’ll happen is still left to be decided.

Here are our options:

4WD

Mercedes G500 {ExpeditionPortal.com}
Mercedes G500…a bit out of our price range… {ExpeditionPortal.com}

The ideal option is renting or buying a 4WD somewhere in South Africa: driving ourselves would give us the ultimate freedom to go wherever we want, whenever we want. It would also mean a good chance of recovering most if not all of the money we put into the purchase when we sell it.

But even so, an expensive purchase could be enough of a dent in our budget to cost us precious traveling time. Not to mention the stress of purchasing practically sight unseen. And what if we couldn’t sell it afterwards? Renting would ease that worry, but renting can add up in costs as well, and often comes with limitations. Continue reading Traveling Africa: Backpack, Motorbike or 4WD?

Reverse Culture Shock and How You Can Deal with it

When it hit me that I’d be going home a few weeks back, I panicked. I was convinced that if I just kept traveling, all my experiences would remain ‘real’ and wouldn’t succumb to fading in the dusty box of surreal memories in my mind.

Turns out that was the least of my problems. I didn’t understand reverse culture shock, and it snuck up behind me and struck me upside the head.

Police Officer at Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel - YourLocalKat
Not remembering a bomb threat in Jerusalem was the least of my worries

The Symptoms

I’ve come back, but I’ve yet to find the feeling of ‘home.’

My relationships, held strong over time by skype and email, feel oddly distant face to face. I want to share what I’ve experienced but there’s so much that can never fully be conveyed, and I find myself missing the company of those I met during my journey: they barely know me and yet somehow know me better than anyone else.

And there’s an odd sense of duality: I look like everyone and talk like everyone but somehow feel like a foreigner. It’s like I’ve lived a whole other life and I’m not quite sure what to do with this whole other person that came back from the east.

Maybe I’m not sure what to do with the one that stayed here.

The ‘me’ that came back.

Reverse Culture Shock

After a bit of research and talking to people, I found that reverse culture shock is actually quite common.

It strikes when someone comes back ‘home’ after getting accustomed to a different culture, and shows up as loneliness, frustration or a general feeling of disconnect between the re-entrant and their surroundings.

But with people describing it as a “misalignment,” saying that everything is “almost right,”  and that “everything feels familiar, yet different,” they’re clearly not just talking about cultural differences – this unplaceable disconnect is a result of the change that happens within the re-entrant: everything is the same and yet somehow different because it is the re-enterant’s view that is different.

“Up” I hope.

How To Deal With It

You might get distracted and barely notice it, or feel odd and out of place for a few weeks, or maybe end up shutting out the world completely. Either way, whether your return home is temporary or permanent, dealing with the shock of being back can be difficult. Here are some things I’ve been doing that you can do to make the transition easier:

Exchange Experiences

While you were living your travels, your close ones were living their home lives, and it’s important to realize all the changes that have taken place, whether internal or external. Sharing some of the experiences you’ve gone through, and asking them about the goings-on at home will give everyone a chance to know where the other party is coming from.

Connect & Reconnect

Keep up with the friends you met while on the road – they know you at your most recent and can often be the ones that know the ‘changed you’ best. Maintaining those connections can help you readjust and prevent you from getting lost in the ho-hum of everyday life.

On that note, start making new memories with the people that you’ve just come back to! Getting stuck reminiscing only about memories of by-gone travel adventures will make everyone miserable.

Pho Bo Breakfast in Phu Quoc, Vietnam - YourLocalKat
Pho Bo Breakfast in Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Integrate the Changes

Maybe you make having noodles for breakfast the new ‘it’ thing.  Maybe you keep up with your French. Maybe you decorate your digs with Moroccan patterns, start going for runs in the morning, or stop trying to control everything (so much easier to ‘let go’ on the road).

Regardless, combining aspects of your travels that you enjoyed or that specifically became a part of you will make being back less of a terrifying, ‘boring’ option, and more an exciting opportunity. Make your travels keep on giving!

Play Tourist at Home

I’m always shocked at how little people tour around their own countries or cities. *cough* Guilty. *cough* But ‘traveling’ around your home town and to nearby cities is an easy way to keep up the adventure, and can make ‘home’ less of an ‘end’ and more of another destination where you happen to be spending time. There’s a good chance tourists come to your town for something – check it out! Alternatively, go where tourists don’t go. Oooh, now we’re talking.

Give it a Moment

My mom keeps saying, “You were so ‘go-with-the-flow’ and accepting on your travels – Accept this now, and that it’ll pass.” It’s probably good advice. So accept it, don’t push it. Find a place where you feel comfortable while you ‘deal’ with it – eventually you will readjust, reassimilate, reintegrate anew.

And if all else fails:

Travel